Revelation 20:1-15 | The Thousand Years

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The Thousand Years

Revelation 20:1-15

Key Verse 20: 6

“Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

There has always been a controversy regarding the 1000 years of the “millennium” mentioned here in the Book of Revelation. Yet the controversy is in no way an issue that demands an absolute view as to the nature of this “millennium”. Simply speaking, we Christians believe exactly what the Bible tells us to believe. And when it comes to the mysterious “1000” years, we believe that Christ will return according to his promise. And upon his return Christ will bind the Devil for 1000 years, whereby Christ will rule. After the 1000 years period, Christ will release the Devil from his prison for a short time. The devil would then make his final stand against Christ and his people, after which he would be forever meet his eternal judgment.

The chapter we are looking at today is again remarkable in that it repeats the story of Christ’s triumph once again. It gives us a glimpse of the end of the end of end times, just before all that God has promised— and all that we hope (or should) for— will come to pass. At the end of the end times, some events must happen according to God’s sovereign purpose. It is not easy to understand why they must happen, but we know that it is not always necessary to understand as much as it is necessary to believe and to heed. And this chapter gives us opportunity to simply bask in the absolute knowledge that regardless of what purpose God may have in carrying out events in the way that he does, all things work out in the end to the glory of God as well as to our own edification as God’s blessed children. The end will come as surely as the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. And for those who have surrendered their lives to the Lord of lords and King of kings, we have the assurance that all is well with our souls. Amen.

Read verses 1-3. “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.” There is no doubt who holds the keys to life and death, and to the keys that open every door in heaven and on earth as well as to keys that close doors in heaven and on earth. God Almighty has always been the one in absolute control of all things. Human beings may think that they hold the key to their own lives, to their success and their failure, to their own happiness or sadness. But in truth they hold nothing in their hands. All things are directed and commanded and fulfilled in heaven from the throne of God. And it would do good to human beings to simply bow the knee the one who holds even their destiny in his hands. In the end, when this world and its people have played all the games of life they like to play, and the devil had egged them on, and God had allowed it, at the right time, God is going to put a stop to all things. Look at verses 1-3 again. God is going to seize the dragon Satan and God is going to bind him for a 1000. He will seize him, bind him, lock him up and seal him in a temporary prison. God in his mastery and sovereignty will release him again for a short time, and God will have his own reasons for that. But for now, he tells us that he will lock him up for 1000 years. And he tells us the reason he will do that. God tells us to things. In verse 3 he tells us that he will do so in order to keep him— prevent him— from deceiving the nations anymore. Later on in verses 4-6 he gives us another reason as well.

But we ought to consider for a moment the first reason. God would keep him from deceiving the nations. It is hard to understand what that means. But whether we understand or not, everyone understands the seriousness of deception. Deception is a terrible thing. Deception has torn the world apart from the beginning of time. It all started in the Garden of Eden when the devil deceived Adam and Eve to distrust God and to break his commandment. Since then we broke trust with God. Trust is not a small issue. Once trust is broken it is so hard to restore trust again in anything or anyone. And that trust relationship between God and man was broken because of Satan’s deception. The devil has been using deception from the beginning to destroy humanity. Nations and peoples fell because of deception. In 2 Timothy 3:13 Paul is teaching Timothy about the world situation. He tells him something very interesting that describes the people of the world very well. He tells him: “while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” This indeed is the world in a nutshell, deceived and being deceived. Without God, all things are so deceptive. When people do not know God, they known only deception, even if they do not intend to deceive they live in it whether they like it or not. The reason is simple. When the heart is not ruled by Christ, it is ruled by the devil, and the devil works through deception. He has deceived men to believe that God does not exist. He deceives others that while God exists he cares nothing for men. He has deceived many into believing that there is no hell, that there is only heaven and that all will eventually go to heaven. He has deceived people and nations into believing all sorts of religions and philosophies that make men proud and useless to God. He deceives that God is all love and that in love God is a kindly grandfather who covers up for men’s sins. He has also deceived the world that Jesus is not the Christ, but that he is only a great prophet.

What can we say about deception? Deception is more than we can tell in a few words. It is the story of the world. But God did not leave us without a way out of the prevalent deception. The Bible is the truth. It is the only truth. In it we can learn how to recognize truth from lie, deception from what is not deceiving. Young people today are most deceived. The saddest of them are those who would believe that they are Christians and that they are safe from the devil and have a grip on salvation by virtue that their parents are Christians and that they go to church once in a while. But they never take the Bible seriously. They are bombarded day and night by the world’s deception, and then they think they can make up for the deception if they recite the lord’s prayer or read a verse in the Bible once in a while. Deception is a war, and our young people are losing in that war. They know they must study the Bible and that they must study with seriousness and an impeccable attitude. Yet every thing around them draws them away form the word of God, which is their only salvation out of deception into truth. Pity those who take the Bible lightly believing that a church visit once in a while is sufficient to make up for lost time. We are in a war of deception. We ought to make the word of God the priority of our lives. Otherwise the consequences are not so good. In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul admonishes Timothy his Bible student saying: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” This should be our attitude. We must impress this on our young people’s hearts because the world draws them away from the word of God by its lures and temptations. The devil deceives. But the word of God gives us a solid foundation in the truth.

Read verses 4-6. “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” This is a very mysterious passage explaining that there is a resurrection before the final resurrection. They call it the first resurrection. And verse 6 tells us that blessed and holy are those who are part of the first resurrection. But we should not consider that the resurrection is in stages, and that God has levels of prestige when it comes to the resurrection such that some who are resurrected are better off being resurrected in the first resurrection rather than the second. These who have not worshiped the beast and who had not been marked by the devil’s mark will rise to rule with Christ for 1000 years. Perhaps they are those who did not come to faith in Christ until the end times when God had already begun his judgments on the earth. Perhaps they are those who were not part of the rapture because at the time of the rapture they had no faith yet. Perhaps they are those who when they saw the world falling apart at the hand of God’s terrible judgments, repented and decided to commit their lives to Christ at any cost. And the cost was high for them. According to these verses they went through intense suffering for their faith. They had been persecuted for the same reasons God’s people of all time are persecuted. And what are God’s people persecuted except for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus! This seems to be at the heart of our God, his word and his Son are the dearest to his heart. Last week we spoke of the Son for whose sake God would do anything, and everything. For his name’s sake, for Jesus’ name sake, God rescued us from condemnation. And for his name’s sake we ought to be ready to do anything for the Son whom we love. Persecution for the testimony of Jesus is a blessed thing. How precious are those who testify to Jesus, that Jesus is the Lord and that he sacrificed his very life so that we who are unworthy would not perish but have eternal life! How precious is this testimony! For this testimony not only those in the end times, but all who belong to Jesus suffer. We may not suffer from beheadings. But we ought to suffer in upholding Jesus above all the idols of this world. We ought to suffer by giving up the pleasures of sin for the sake of our Lord Jesus and his gospel.

Look at verse 4 again. They suffered for the word of God. The word of God is truth. Jesus once declared, that: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Mark 13:31) It will not because it is the word of life. On that foundation God built the universe, and on that foundation we stand in a world rife with deceptions. In the end times, those who did not submit to the devil and did not bear his mark and those who did not follow his way, who did not engage their hearts with prostitute Babylon, those who were ready to give up all things for the sake of Christ, and for the love of Christ and for his name’s sake— God promised that in the end times when Christ comes to rule for a 1000 years, he would resurrect those who had faith in Christ in the most terrible of times. He would resurrect them in order to rule with him for 1000 years. We do not know why God would choose that his Son rule for a 1000 years along with those who would participate in the first resurrection. But one thing is clear: the world would be free from the devil’s deception. At the time, there would be no deception. Everything would be as it is now in heaven, with truth as the absolute standard by which all things function. In that sense, then, perhaps the 1000 years rule together with those who had been resurrected is part of God’s plan for the final judging the world and those who remain. Perhaps it is to expose those who rebel against God in their hearts and confirm those who are truly faithful to God. it is incredible how God has plans to save the world. At the same time, God has plans to sift out men’s heart. Outwardly there may be many with a verbal testimony as to their love and submission to Jesus and to his Kingship. But inwardly their hearts are not fully committed to the Lord. We shudder to think that God is a God who judges hearts and not outward signs and pretentious confessions. The Lord is the Lord who judges hearts. He wants the heart. He wants my heart and he wants your heart as well.

Verse 6. “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” Indeed blessed are those who have any part of God’s gracious resurrection. There are many things that are a blessing to us. We are blessed by the love which God has for us. We are blessed by the grace by which the Lord judges us, in Christ Jesus his Son. We are blessed for the word of God he has given us. We are blessed to participate in his suffering, in his passion to bring the world out of darkness into light. We are blessed and blessed and overly blessed. Paul said: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the one who loved me and gave himself for me.” That is a blessing worth many blessings. To be crucified with Christ. To no longer live by our sinful nature but for Christ to live in us. To live by faith. To be part of the loving Christ who died for us. But the blessing that brings all these blessings together is the blessing of being resurrected with him one day, to have anew life, to have a new hope to live forever in his presence. For that, we must be ready to suffer in this world, even a little, in order to gain the blessing of all time. There is nothing more blessed than to be united with our Lord once day. And may that day come soon. Amen.

Read verses 7-10. “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth— -Gog and Magog— to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Amazingly, we have here a picture of the final end: the end of all evil. After the 1000 years of rule of Christ and his resurrected saints, the world will once again experience the treachery of the devil. He will be released for God’s own purpose, a purpose we may not know till that day comes. But the devil will be released this one last time. When he is released, he will use his most powerful weapon of all time— deception again. The 1000 years of Christ’s rule would have been a time of great peace and justice. A time when whoever lives on this earth is given an opportunity to witness what it is like to be ruled by the Christ— by this wonderful King and Shepherd. During the 1000 years we can only imagine the great peace that had come upon the world, the healings, and the grace that will shower on men like rain from heaven. During that time, perhaps books will be written on what the Christ is like. Volumes to be written about the King who is a shepherd, a king like whom there has never ever been one. But no sooner than the devil is released, witness first hand here the power of his deception. After 1000 years of Christ and his rule, the devil’s deception is still powerful enough to draw all nations back to himself. Men today scoff at the notion that there is a God and a devil. They laugh at the notion that evil reigns through a powerful Demon who has plunged the world into sin by his power. But the truth is plain. How tragic it will be for the world of time hooked by the devil’s deception. We are not sure who Magog and Gog are, and there are many interpretations. But whatever they are, they are those who were enslaved by the deception of the devil, who has deceived them to believe that they can make war against the Lord and win. But while they are marching on Jerusalem, the city that God loves, they will not even make it to where they hoped to battle. Fire will come down from heaven to consume them. they had gambled with the devil and had lost the battle for their souls. And the devil will once for all be thrown into the lake of burning sulfur.

This will happen in the end times. Nations and people who are deceived by the devil to fight against God and his Son and his people. These are people who gamble with their souls. Men ought not to gamble with their souls. They ought not gamble at all, and especially not with their souls. Our souls are the most precious things God has given us. Our souls will one day be weight in the scales and given their worth. And while the soul is worth more than one can ever imagine, it is worth nothing when it is marked by sin. That is why Jesus gave his life for us. He gave his life for us so that we might surrender our souls to the one who is worthy of our souls, the one who purchased our souls with his blood. How precious he is. But men still gamble their souls. They give their souls to the things of this world. We must not gamble with our souls. We must instead give our hearts to the Lord. We ought to day by day find ourselves in his word, learning, growing inwardly, and growing nearer to the author and savior of our souls. And deception— deception can be avoided if we know the truth and only if we know the truth. Jesus once declared: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) Not everyone apparently is a disciple of Jesus. According to his words, only those who hold to his teaching are really his disciples. To those he promised something precious. He promised that they would come to know the truth. They would come to know that his word is truth and the only truth. And he promised even further than that. He promised that to those who know the truth, they would be set free. We can be free from deception if we know the truth. Let us not gamble with our souls. Let us not gamble thinking that we are beyond deception. Let us hold dear his teaching.

Read verses 11-15. “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” This is the end of all things. The final judgment when all people would stand before the throne of God to be judged. Twice the author tells us that all will be judged according to what they had done— each according to what he or she had done. And then accordingly there will be those who would cross over to life and those who would not. We know that the Christian faith and salvation has nothing to do with deeds or acts of righteousness. That it has everything to do with faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. The deceiver has deceived many to believe all kinds of stories and ways of salvation. There are none by one. Jesus once gave us an eternal truth to hold on to, so that our names may be written in the book of life. He said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Indeed there is no way other than through Jesus. And this is not by mouth but by heart. On that day, God will sift out the hearts. The heart of all men will be laid bare before the throne of God. When God looks at your heart, may he see the humility which submits to the gospel and to the grace given us in and through Jesus. May your heart be washed in Jesus’ blood. Amen.

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